Older Women on Statins Face Increased Diabetes Risk

Postmenopausal women who are taking statins appear to have an increased risk of developing diabetes, researchers have found.

Postmenopausal women who are taking statins appear to have an increased risk of developing diabetes, researchers have found.

The researchers used data from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI), which recruited 161,808 postmenopausal women aged 50 to 79 from 1993 to 1998 with ongoing follow-up. The current study used data through 2005 and 153,840 women from the WHI, all without diabetes mellitus (DM). At baseline, 7.04% were taking statin medication.

Of these women, 10,242 went on to develop diabetes. The researchers found that statin use at baseline was associated with an increased risk of diabetes, even after adjusting for variables such as age, race/ethnicity, and body mass index.

"The results of this study imply that statin use conveys an increased risk of new-onset DM in postmenopausal woman,” the researchers wrote, according to a press release. “In keeping with the findings of other studies, our results suggest that statin-induced DM is a medication class effect and not related to potency or to individual statin."

While these results indicate a link between statin use and diabetes in postmenopausal women, the researchers noted that the extent of the connection has "not been specifically defined,” and concluded that “given the wide use of statins in the aging population, further studies among women, men, and diverse ethnicities will clarify DM risk and risk management to optimize therapy."

The researchers do not recommend altering the current American Diabetes Association guidelines for primary and secondary prevention, as statins can be effectively used to help treat the cardiovascular effects of diabetes. They also recommend that guidelines for statin use in non-diabetic populations remain unaltered.

The study was published online yesterday by the Archives of Internal Medicine.